Managing Corporate Intelligence

Advantage ERP GroupIn the last blog, we defined the concept of Corporate Intelligence, discussed valuing it as an asset, and promised to talk about ways to best manage it so employees value it in the same way they do inventory and AR.  So, that’s the focus of this blog.

Please stop here for a second!  If you haven’t read our blog Valuing Corporate Intelligence as a Financial Asset then please read it before continuing as this article builds on that blog’s ideas.

So, if you’ve read this far then we’ll assume that you’ve bought into the critical importance of Corporate Intelligence and its value as a corporate asset. We’ll talk here about how to keep track of these customer interactions.  The first thought in your mind might be ‘Is this where you start trying to sell CRM software?’ No!  Start in a very simple way using tools you already have.  Here’s how.

Many companies already use Outlook for emails, calendars etc.  Just start using Outlook Contacts to track customer calls and meetings.  ‘Ok Dave, how does that work?’  Outlook remembers each recipient as you create emails, but it doesn’t automatically add them as Contacts.  It’s easy to take the next step, just right-click on the email address and select ‘Add to Outlook Contacts’.  This creates the Contact with just the email address - you’ll want to update it with the person’s Company Name, Phone, Address, even Birthday if you like.  And next use Outlook’s Notes field on the Contact screen to record a few lines from each phone call.  Advantage ERP GroupIt’s easiest to add new comments on the top of the Notes field and start each comment with the date of the interaction.  Each time we interact with a contact we first check the Notes field.  This makes us much more efficient, and our customers start noticing that we’ve become much easier to work with.

Yes, this is only a first step.  The Outlook Notes field quickly fills with text and you may soon want to find an easier tool.  That’s the value of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.  CRM systems allow you to create a separate Note or Activity for each interaction, mark Activities as closed, create marketing campaigns, and much more.  Most CRM systems have options to synchronize with your ERP System’s customer data (eliminating ‘double-entry’) and generate separate Activities for each sent and received email.

If these ideas are new to you then start simple using Outlook.  Get a feel for the value you’re creating before working into more sophisticated systems. If you already use an ERP system like SAP Business One, then you may already have a built-in CRM system, complete with Activities, Marketing Campaigns, Sales Opportunities, some very effective reports, and SAP’s Outlook Integration tool.  (Not all CRM functions are available in certain versions of SAP Business One.)  Otherwise, take the time to look at purpose-built CRM solutions such as Act!  Its usually possible to convert your Outlook-based Contacts and Notes to your CRM system’s Leads / Customers and Activities.    If you enter Outlook Notes in a way that consistently separates each text entry in the Notes field, then it may be possible to transform it into separate CRM Activities.  Upfront planning is your friend.

This outlines an approach that helps small companies who have little or no tracking of their Corporate Intelligence.  Please contact us with any questions or to have a more complete discussion based on your needs.

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